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Mitchell on childhood, debut and becoming a role model

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When Tyrick Mitchell was a child, he would sit down every Saturday to watch Match of the Day in awe of his footballing heroes. Now, he’s a regular member of the cast.

“It’s crazy,” Mitchell remembers, speaking to BBC Radio London. “Back when I was younger watching Match of the Day, you never ever put yourself in that position, that you’re going to be on Match of the Day one day.

“You’re there watching it every weekend, and you’re just fascinated. But you never ever put yourself in the position where you’re like: ‘I’m going to be on there in a few years’.”

It wasn’t an easy journey. Born in Brent and growing up in Harrow, Mitchell’s father was absent throughout a tough childhood – but he found support elsewhere.

“For me, it wasn’t as deep because you might have a friend in a similar situation, or other people in a similar situation,” Mitchell explains. “It didn’t have a big effect on me. There were still other people supporting me, there was no lack of affection, or love, or support.

“So, in my case, sometimes if someone is not there you find it within other people, or you find it within yourself. And I feel like I find it within myself and other people because I was trying to get to different areas, and meeting different personalities that help you when you are younger.

“Every day I feel proud and grateful for what I’ve achieved and how far I’ve come. Now, it’s like I can see it [success], when before I couldn’t really see it. I was proud to be in an academy, but I couldn’t see the end goal.

“I’ve made some crazy progress. I’m proud that my friends are looking at me and watching me on Match of the Day.”

Mitchell’s career could have taken a very different turn when his former club, Brentford, announced they were closing their academy system, instead electing to set-up a B-team.

“I was there for a few years before it shut,” recalls Mitchell. “It was hard, especially because I was doing my GCSEs at the time. I didn’t really get to think about it too much.

“We played a match and everyone was unsure. We thought it was going to be the Under-16s and below [that were shut], but they had a meeting where they said the whole thing was closing.

“It was a crazy feeling, because these were coaches and players I’d grown up with. But because I was still going to school with my friends, that helped me forget about football for a month or so.”

Joining Crystal Palace, Mitchell quickly rose through the youth ranks and was given his chance in the first-team. It was some progress for a youngster who had been watching his teammates on the television not too many years ago.

“It was crazy, because these are players I’ve actually watched,” he says. “It’s one thing training with them, but it’s another thing putting on the shirt and sitting in the changing room next to them – playing and battling with them.

“It was a surreal feeling. [Aaron Wan-Bissaka] showed me that if I’m ready and I grow at the right moment, I could get my chance. If I take my chance, the world is your oyster and you don’t know what could happen.”

Mitchell made his debut at the end of the COVID-hit 2019/20 season, before staking a real claim for the left-back position in the following campaign. But there was barely a moment to take it all in.

“Coming into the Premier League, I would have thought I would have to go on loan and prove myself,” he says. “It was crazy that it was just this massive jump, and then you’re in the best league in the world.

“The crazy thing about it was that, because of COVID, we had a shorter break before the next season, so I never got a chance to think: ‘Oh my days, I was just playing in the Premier League’.

“And because Patrick [van Aanholt] got injured in the end of the last season, I knew he wouldn’t be back in time. So I knew that this could be my chance to start the season, so I never got a chance to look back at it. I just got ready to start the season.”

Now, under Patrick Vieira, Mitchell has started the first five league games of the campaign. He is embracing his more attacking role in the new set-up.

“I’m definitely higher up the pitch when we have possession,” he says. “It’s something that, personally, I want to get better at, at this level. In my younger days I was decent but at this level its something I want to improve on.

“You just have to be confident in your own ability and take risks. It’s all about being confident when you have the ball. For me, it’s easy to believe that I’m going to win every [defensive] one-v-one. Someone else is making the decision and you just have to be in the way.

“But it’s completely different when you have the ball and someone else is doing that to you. I feel like it’s just believing you can beat someone, believing that you’re going to make the right pass or cross.”

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Sometimes when you see someone on TV, you don’t really clock that they’re real people.

Tyrick Mitchell

Now a regular at the very highest level, Mitchell is only beginning to realise the impact his success could have on the area where he grew up. His status as a role model is only beginning to sink in.

“I haven’t fully realised it, but there are certain situations,” he admits. “Say: my little cousin’s friends. When I go to see my little cousin, and they’re getting all excited, it’s a nice feeling.

“When I was that age, seeing those guys on TV, I wasn’t seeing them in my area. I was seeing them on TV, and wondering: ‘What is he really like?’ Sometimes when you see someone on TV, you look at them and you don’t really clock that they’re real people – you don’t clock that they’re normal people.

“For me, I always felt like a normal person. To see that people look at me and are amazed they’re seeing me, and show me so much love, it’s crazy to feel that.”